New Jersey district plans iPad-only algebra course


The HMH Fuse app provides students with step-by-step animated instruction and access to over 400 video tutorials.

New Jersey’s Edison Township School District will be the first in the state to implement an entirely iPad-based Algebra 1 curriculum.

The program will pilot the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Fuse: Algebra 1 application with 60 students this fall, said Richard O’Malley, Edison Township School District’s superintendent.

O’Malley has only been the district’s superintendent for about four months, but he said the addition of iPads in the classroom helps him get closer to his personal targets.

“I really wanted to bring as much technology into the curriculum as possible; that’s one of my goals for the district,” O’Malley said. “I really believe that this type of technology integration is the future of teaching and learning.”

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HMH Fuse is currently being piloted in California as well, where teachers are reporting dramatic gains in student engagement, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says.

The iPad application gives students step-by-step animated instruction, instant feedback on practice questions, the ability to write, record, and save notes, and access to more than 400 video tutorials. Teachers can monitor performance via Wi-Fi, with real-time, student-specific feedback.

“We’re downloading this application, which is the equivalent of the 950-page book that we would’ve given students, and what we’re trying to do is offer this Algebra 1 course in a digital media teaching environment and compare it to the traditional method where we just use a textbook,” said O’Malley.

Edison Township School District plans to evaluate the program’s success through a variety of baseline tests and formative assessments, as well as analyzing the results of New Jersey’s state standardized tests and scores on the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).

“We’re going to look at all the data to see if there was any dramatic increase in student achievement by offering this curriculum in a digital format,” O’Malley said.

If there seems to be a positive correlation between the use of HMH Fuse and test scores—which O’Malley is fairly certain there will be—Edison Township plans on expanding the program.

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“We’d want to expand it throughout both of our high schools, if not our middle schools as well,” said O’Malley. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is also exploring adding to its own course offerings.

O’Malley is enthusiastic about the possibility of bringing iPads and HMH Fuse into the classroom. “This kind of cutting-edge technology has the ability to really personalize teaching,” he said.

HMH earlier this year launched a year-long pilot project with 400 eighth grade students in the San Francisco, Long Beach, Riverside, and Fresno school districts in California. One group of students used the HMH Fuse app, while the other group was taught traditionally. Each teacher in the pilot project randomly selected one class section to use the app and another to be taught via textbook. The test results from that pilot should be available in fall 2011, but early results are encouraging.

Jay McPhail, Riverside Unified’s director of instructional technology, said 90.5 percent of students using iPads are testing as proficient or above on benchmark tests, compared with 60 percent in other classes.

In Fresno Unified School District, where 100 students at Kings Canyon and Sequoia middle schools are part of a four-district pilot program, the results appear promising, spokeswoman Susan Bedi said.

“The iPads have created excitement about learning algebra, which indicates that students are more engaged in the classroom,” she said, “and that will equate to higher achievement.”

More news about iPads in education:

Five ways readers are using iPads in the classroom

Online journalism is elementary for these students

Schools see rising scores with iPads

Sony unveils tablets to rival the iPad

iPads take a place next to crayons in kindergarten

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